Activists Demand “Drastic” Changes to Pride

Reclaim Pride Coalition members Ivy Arce, Natalie James, Sister Gladiola Gladrags of the NYC (dis)order of Sisters, Jay W. Walker, and Gabriel San Emeterio outside the city’s Municipal Building as they distributed their demands regarding the June 24 Pride Parade. | DUNCAN OSBORNE

A group of activists who have deep ties to the LGBTQ and other movements are demanding significant changes in how Heritage of Pride (HOP) operates New York City’s annual Pride Parade and in how the NYPD polices the event.

“We are delivering demands to address historic and ongoing issues with the administration of the Pride parade by Heritage of Pride and the NYPD,” said Natalie James, a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC), as she and other members delivered the demands to police headquarters, the de Blasio administration, and HOP’s offices in the West Village on April 25. “We are seeking new and drastic changes to the march since last year.”

The coalition wants HOP to bar members of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) and other organizations representing law enforcement from marching in their uniforms and carrying weapons “nor shall any police be afforded a place of pride near the front of the March,” the coalition said in its demands. They also want the NYPD’s marching band barred from the march, which takes place every year on the last Sunday in June to note the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots that marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Coalition seeks limits on police, corporate participation in June 24 parade

The coalition wants “Police Free Zones at Christopher Street” and on the piers at the end of Christopher Street on the Hudson River. Security in those zones would be provided by “trained members of our community,” the coalition said in its demands. The group does not want barricades along the march route and in the assembly areas for march contingents. It opposes arresting people who protest during the march. Like last year’s march, the coalition wants a resistance contingent “in recognition of the ongoing and unique oppression enacted upon our community by the Trump Administration.”

This year, HOP is limiting contingents to a maximum of 200 people and requiring at least some march participants to wear wristbands.

The coalition wants only “Corporate and for-profit entities” limited to 200 people. It rejected that limit and wristbands for “community, activist, and not-for-profit group contingents.” It also wants “political parties, elected officials, and political candidates” to be subject to the limit and said they “should not march in a place of pride near the front of the Pride March.”

Separately, the coalition is making the same demands of the NYPD and it is asking for “a public apology from the NYPD for the part it played at Stonewall and for historic and ongoing violence by the NYPD against members of the LGBTQ community, particularly the most vulnerable members of our community.”

The coalition wants the NYPD “to give deference to marshals trained and supplied by the RPC and HOP in providing security for the Pride March,” it does not want sound cannons used during the march, and it is demanding that there be “no cooperation between the NYPD and [federal immigration officials] during NYC Pride.”

The coalition has held a series of meetings at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center beginning on April 7 to formulate its demands. The first meeting was on the record. Gay City News was permitted to attend the next two, but the discussion in those meetings was off the record to permit the activists to have completely open conversations.

The coalition members include Leslie Cagan, who has long been active in the LGBTQ and anti-war movements, Brandon Cuicchi and Mark Milano, longtime ACT UP members, Jake Tolan and Jeremiah Johnson, members of Rise and Resist, Jay W. Walker, a member of Gays Against Guns (GAG), Jamie Bauer, who has delivered civil disobedience training to a number of groups, and Natalie James, a member of the Queer Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America, which convened the coalition meetings. The meetings have also drawn members of the Jewish Voice for Peace, the Red Bloom Collective, Hoods4Justice, and NYC ShutItDown.

The coalition is confronted with some obstacles. As Gay City News went to press, just two groups other than the coalition had reportedly endorsed the demands, but Gay City News could not confirm that. Organizing broader support had just started.

Registration for the march has closed and HOP is notoriously reluctant to admit groups late. In June 2016, following the killings of 49 people in a Florida LGBTQ club, GAG sought a slot in the parade. It got into the parade only after Corey Johnson, then a member of the City Council and now its speaker, gave his place to the anti-gun group.

HOP’s longstanding policy has been to admit any group to the march as long as the group follows HOP’s rules, which apply equally to all contingents. The coalition is asking HOP to single out GOAL and police the content of its messaging. There have been protests over police in Pride events in six North American cities, including in New York City last year.

While the crowd that lines the march route every year tends to cheer for everything that passes by, GOAL does seem to be particularly popular. Given that it was a police raid on the Stonewall Inn that prompted the 1969 riots, GOAL’s presence in the parade is seen by some in the broader LGBTQ community as evidence of the community’s success and acceptance by the broader society.

The NYPD is highly unlikely to agree to these demands. That agency sees itself as responsible for the safety of all New Yorkers and as the expert on how any safety measures should be deployed.

James said that recent decisions to not prosecute some low-level crimes by the Brooklyn and Manhattan district attorneys and community views toward policing generally indicate a new environment that was receptive to the demands.

“I think we’re entering into a new zeitgeist in terms of community attitudes on policing,” she said.

As Gay City News was going to press on April 25, the NYPD, GOAL, and HOP had not responded to requests for comment.